Ben Curtis has only played 12 holes of the UBS Hong Kong Open course and already he likes what he sees.
“This is a great course,” said the 2003 British Open champion after managing two-thirds of a practice round at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on Tuesday. “It fits your eye well. You have to shape the ball off the tee. It’s not overly long but it doesn’t need to be to be a good test.”
Curtis is one of the top drawcards at this week’s US$2.5 million UBS Hong Kong Open and he believes Fanling’s tight par-70 layout will suit his game.
“I like courses where you have to think off the tee and not just blast your driver,” said the American. “You have to think about what you are doing and place the shots. There are options which make it fun.
“You don’t have to be long, and I’m not. You have to place it and there are holes where you hit irons off the tee. And the greens are relatively small so you have to be accurate with the irons and that puts a premium on the short game.
“There are some long courses we play with big greens which make it a relatively easy two putt. Here you have to be precise and it’s fun to play.”
Curtis astonished the golf world in 2003 when, as a virtual unknown, he won the British Open at his first attempt. Since then he has consolidated his status as an elite player with two victories on the PGA Tour and he was a member of the United States’ victorious Ryder Cup team last year.
The 32-year-old divides his time between the PGA Tour and European Tour and says he likes playing an international schedule.
“I enjoy playing different parts of the world and if you look at all the world class players, they all won all over the world,” he said. “I’m not there with Nicklaus or Woods, Player or Palmer but if you look at their resumes and see where they won, it’s pretty impressive.
“As Open champion I try and play where I can around the world. To be able to go and say we have the Open champion playing is part of it as well. You play with different guys and I always try and play where the best players are.”
Other stars on show at the UBS Hong Kong Open include world No.4 Lee Westwood and Asia’s first Major winner, Yang Yong Eun.
World No.13 Ian Poulter – recent winner of the Singapore Open – and former Masters and British Open champion Mark O’Meara are also in the field. Returning to Fanling are defending champion Lin Wen Tang and the man he beat in last year’s unforgettable playoff duel, world No.17 Rory McIlroy.
The UBS Hong Kong Open is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.